Recent Articles By John Martellaro [RSS]

TMO Background Mode Interview with Amateur Astronomer Mike Weasner

· · Background Mode Podcast

Mike Weasner on Background Mode.

Mike Weasner is a noted amateur astronomer, known for his book on the Meade ETX telescopes, early iPhone astrophotography and work with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in Arizona. Very early in life, Mike fell in love with astronomy, and that led to a B.S. in astrophysics. Via ROTC, Mike later joined the United States Air Force, where he served as a fighter pilot (A-7D), instructor (T-38), and a manager in the Air Force’s Space Shuttle Program Office. After his USAF duty, Mike spent 23 years as a program manager with TRW/Northrop Grumman. We chatted about his Air Force days and some interesting flight experiences. In the second segment, we talked about the construction of his observatory, evolution of his telescopes, astrophotography of asteroids, supernovae patrol and his work with the IDA.

The Influence of Star Trek on Space Technology

· · Cool Stuff Found

The Star Trek TV shows and movies have had a pervasive effect on our culture, language and space technologies. This extensive article at looks at the history of the franchise and its real-life impact on space exploration. From the article: “Star Trek also has generated a diverse fan base, some of whom create limited episode productions for themselves. Conventions continue to attract thousands of fans who are eager to rub elbows with actors, writers and other people who worked on the various series and movies. The franchise celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 and continues to live long and prosper.”

The Influence of Star Trek on Space Technology

Do Photos of an Event Improve Memory of it? Apparently Not

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Photos sand, beach, sky

We take a lot of photos. We upload them. But a study from UC Santa Cruz shows that photographs don’t actually present the truth of the moment: they actually distort it. The effect is called “cognitive offloading.” The linked article explains. “It turns out that photographing gives the photographer significantly less need to encode (i.e. we tend to put more mental stock, if you will, into the photograph that we just took rather than actually encoding the memory ourselves).” Sounds like vacationers need to spend more time gazing and less time photographing.

Go Ahead, Ask Siri if She's Spying on You

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Siri, are you spying on me?

Lots have been written, both seriously and in jest, about whether our AIs spy on us. But why not just ask Siri? Will she lie? This light-hearted experiment has been tried, in the provided link, and the nature of the responses is interesting. Some day, Siri will be a lot smarter, but will the answer be just as blunt? Or more helpful? Right now, ::cough:: it seems more like the game of Eliza.

What the iPhone 8 Costs in Other Countries Will Surprise You

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iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus top selling smartphones

An iPhone 8 Plus, in the U.S., with 256 GB of storage goes for US$949. But the that’s the lowest price you’ll pay. Here’s an interesting chart that show how much it’ll cost in many other countries, in equivalent U.S. dollar.s. For example, those in Brazil will pay the equivalent of $1377.  Why? Import taxes.

TMO Background Mode Interview with University Psychologist and Podcaster Dr. Robert Carter

· · Background Mode Podcast

Dr. Robert Carter on Background Mode

Dr. Robert Carter is a Ph.D. Psychologist at Texas A&M, a long-time Apple enthusiast, and the co-host of the Tech Doctor podcast. He’s very well versed in assistive technologies, having been blind since birth. Robert tells an amazing story about he’s coped with his disability through the years. It started with using a portable typewriter in grade school, discovering the Apple II at age 18 and a speech synthesizer plug-in card, and ultimately using Apple’s extraordinary VoiceOver technology on the Mac—and now iPhone. We chatted about the techniques he uses to read and write, including the use of the Hims BrailleSense Polaris display. We finished with a discussion of his Tech Doctor podcast, and its focus on assistive technologies, and how the evolution of AI and robot technologies look to really help those with disabilities.

Today, the Earth is Farthest From The Sun. Why So Hot?

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Earth and Sun seen from space.

In the northern hemisphere, at least. Yes, the Earth is farthest from the Sun, in its slightly elliptical orbit, in the northern hemisphere summer. And so it’s natural to ask why summer gets so warm. That’s a classic astronomy 101 question, and it’s nicely explained in this link at Gizmodo. (Image credit: NASA.) For more, see: “Aphelion Day 2018: Earth Is Farthest from the Sun Today.”

How to Become a Good Naked-Eye Stargazer

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Milky Way and trees.

It’s summer. We’re outdoors at night more than other seasons. Then, when people think about becoming more familiar with the night sky, the various stars and constellations, they often think that a telescope is required. And while it’s true that good views of planets, nebulae and galaxies do require a telescope, there’s a lot one can learn by an organized effort with the naked-eye. In fact, one can argue that a good familiarity with the constellations is an important starting point for all things astronomical. This linked article has great information on exactly how to become a good naked-eye stargazer